ESPAÑOLA, NM (KRQE) – It’s been a part of a New Mexico community’s traditions for decades. Now, a community’s prized possession is in the hands of burglars, who likely didn’t know the significance of what they took.
KRQE News 13 spoke with the Española Queen who is now pleading for the return of her crown.
The Fiesta tradition is older than Angelina Vigil, crowned in May ‘La Reina,’ Queen of the Fiestas in Española.
“To wear that, it’s such an honor, but right now I can’t even like explain the feeling,” Vigil told KRQE News 13. “It’s just not a good feeling.”
When she came home Tuesday evening from work, she and her mother found shattered glass at the back door, TVs, and electronics were stolen. Vigil’s room was ransacked. Her prized crown and scepter were gone.
“I just, I kneeled down and I started crying,” she said. “It’s very valuable and very historical to our community, so it hurts.”
This particular crown made of silver and turquoise, has been passed down in Española for 45 years. “I mean that’s not, it’s not something that’s going to ever be replaced.”
The thieves didn’t make it far before a neighbor spotted them loading TVs into a truck after 4 p.m. Tuesday. The neighbor confronted the burglars.
“Two gentlemen jump out of the bush, threw a couple of TVs and a bag in, and I confronted them, I said ‘what are you guys doing?'” Chris Archuleta told KRQE News 13.
Archuleta said he spotted two men and a woman in the truck. He said the trio took off in a blue, 70s model, single cab Chevy pickup, that was missing a tailgate.
“I kind of gave a chase up towards McCurdy, they were just driving out of control,” said Archuleta. He stopped following them, realizing the danger, and called police.
Archuleta and his wife were able to get a partial license plate number, and noticed the truck had a yellow New Mexico plate. However, the three burglars got away.
Since then, there’s been a social media push from community members to #FindTheCrown. In part, a Facebook post on the Española Valley Fiesta page said, “Please join us by praying to St Anthony the patron for the restoring of things lost or stolen so that our Espanola Historical Crown will be found and returned.”
“We’re going to get these guys, that’s my goal,” said Chief Richard Gallegos, of the Española Police Department. “We’re going to be reaching out to resources, to State Police, and the surrounding agencies.”
With the Fiesta coming up next month, Vigil said she’s heartbroken this happened, and disappointed with the crime in the community.
She said the thieves also stole items from her adopted, six-year-old brother. “He’s sick and it kind of broke my heart to know that they would steal from him,” said Vigil. “They don’t know of course who they’re stealing from, but in my heart, I mean it hurts.”
“It’s a horrible feeling,” she added.
Vigil said she’s offering a reward for the crown’s safe return. “I pray and I hope that you just return it,” she said. “Just leave it on my driveway, leave it at the entrance of City Hall, leave it wherever you need to leave it, as long as I know where it’s at so I can get it. Because without that crown, the Fiesta won’t be the same.”
After the burglary, the Fiesta Queen took to Facebook to vent frustrations about crime in the town, but she quickly removed an angry post after facing backlash.
Following the post, Vigil went on to say in part, “When something as personal as your home is violated, when you are entrusted with something as precious as the Crown of La Reina and it is stolen from a place that you feel safe, your emotions tend to overcome rationality. I apologize to our community, as your Reina I could have phrased my words a little better, words that were spoken from a concerned daughter, and a protective and loving big sister.”
Vigil added, representing Española as La Reina is a blessing, and she will continue to do so with pride and humility.